By Alex Kaufman
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After 371 days without a loss, the Wittenberg Tigers bested the Big Red. It was those same Tigers that handed Denison their final loss of last season on Oct. 11, 2014, before DU rattled off nine consecutive victories, including five this season.
Wittenberg scouted the Big Red well, forcing three turnovers and taking advantage of the defense to a tune of 24-0 after the first half.
Neither Tommy Iammarino ’17 nor Canaan Gebele ’19 could find a rhythm during the cold night in Springfield, Ohio, with their struggles also mitigating any advantages Denison might have had with Dushawn Brown ’16.
Gebele threw for two late touchdowns, but they were too little, too late in a 45-14 setback for the Big Red.
An exhausted Denison defense was led in tackles by Zach Pewitt ’16, with 14, followed by Anthony Sernus ’17, who had 13, including three for a loss and the team’s lone sack.
Looking to make amends, the Big Red were able to outclass the Allegheny Gators. No player actually enjoys the long trip to Meadville, Pa., but the bus ride back to Granville sure feels a lot quicker when you leave with a win.
“On the way out, the ride was generally quiet with everyone sleeping, but after a victory, it was much more energetic, which made the ride [back] much easier,” defensive back Corbin Smith ‘17 said about the trip.
A quarterback change was made ahead of the Allegheny game, with Gebele starting over Iammarino.
“The team and especially the coaches have prepared all of us weekly,” Gebele said about his first career start. “We support each other and when I got the nod I was comfortable knowing that Tommy was an asset on the sidelines. That’s how we work. I trust in the system and try to keep the butterflies at bay.”
The first-year showed off his raw running talent and led the team with 140 yards on the ground and a touchdown; he also finished 17/24 passing for 143 yards and two scores.
In the first quarter, Denison drove down the field inside the Allegheny 10-yard line, but the offensive line had some trouble blocking for Gebele and the running backs, pushing the Big Red back. The drive ended with a Conor Dunn ’17 field goal traveling wide left.
Later in the first quarter, following an Allegheny 55-yard punt, Denison started a drive on their own 12-yard line. Gebele ran for 35 yards on the first play of the drive, but more line troubles cost the Big Red more yardage.
On their next drive, Gebele ran for 48 yards on the first play, but Denison could not find the end zone after Alex Mackin ’17 caught what should have been a touchdown pass, but was pushed back by his own teammate, tight end Cam Layer ’16. The Big Red had to settle for a field goal and a 3-0 lead.
Jackson Young ’19 ran in for a score that was followed by an interception from Zach Neufeld ’17 that gave the Big Red great field position; Gebele ran in for another score, but Dunn’s extra point was blocked and Denison went into the locker room with a 16-0 lead.
In the fourth quarter, DU added another 17 points, including a Richard Wehman III ’17 receiving TD, while Allegheny prevented a shutout with a touchdown of their own.
“The primary option on the play was to hit Dushawn [Brown] on a four yard out,” Wehman said about the play. “The Allegheny D jumped on the pass and I was able to find myself open on a fade route.” In the end, Denison posted their highest score in four weeks with a 33-7 victory.
The Big Red will have the opportunity to turn this one win into a streak when the DePauw Tigers roll into Granville for a Halloween day matchup. The matinee kicks off at 2 p.m. on Saturday at Deeds Field-Piper Stadium.